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Burke has done, I
close the account of the expedition to Versailles.*[4]

I have now to follow Mr. Burke through a pathless wilderness of
rhapsodies, and a sort of descant upon governments, in which he asserts
whatever he pleases, on the presumption of its being believed, without
offering either evidence or reasons for so doing.

Before anything can be reasoned upon to a conclusion, certain facts,
principles, or data, to reason from, must be established, admitted, or
denied. Mr. Burke with his usual outrage, abused the Declaration of
the Rights of Man, published by the National Assembly of France, as
the basis on which the constitution of France is built. This he calls
"paltry and blurred sheets of paper about the rights of man." Does Mr.
Burke mean to deny that man has any rights? If he does, then he must
mean that there are no such things as rights anywhere, and that he has
none himself; for who is there in the world but man? But if Mr. Burke
means to admit that man has rights, the question then will be: What are
those rights, and how man came by them originally?

The error of those who reason by precedents drawn from antiquity,
respecting the rights of man, is that they do not go far enough into
antiquity. They do not go the whole way. They stop in some of the
intermediate stages of an hundred or a thousand years, and produce what
was then done, as a rule for the present day. This is no authority at
all. If we travel still farther into antiquity, we shall find a direct
contrary opinion and practice prevailing; and if antiquity is to be
authority, a thousand such authorities may be produced, successively
contradicting each other; but if we proceed on, we shall at last come
out right; we shall come to the time when man came from the hand of his
Maker. What was he then? Man. Man was his high and only title, and a
higher cannot be given him. But of titles I shall speak hereafter.

We are now got at the origin of man, and at the origin of his rights.
As to the manner in which the world has been governed from that day to
this, it is no farther any concern of ours than to make a proper use of
the errors or the improvements which the history of it presents. Those
who lived an hundred or a thousand years ago, were then moderns, as we
are now. They had their ancients, and those ancients had others, and we
also shall be ancients in our turn. If the mere name of antiquity is to
govern in the affairs of life, the people who are to live an hundred or
a thousand years hence, may as well take us for a precedent, as we make
a precedent of those who lived an hundred or a thousand years ago. The
fact is, that portions of antiquity, by proving everything, establish
nothing. It is authority against authority all the way, till we come
to the divine origin of the rights of man at the creation. Here our
enquiries find a resting-place, and our reason finds a home. If a
dispute about the rights of man had arisen at the distance of an hundred
years from the creation, it is to this source of authority they must
have referred, and it is to this same source of authority that we must
now refer.

Though I mean not to touch upon any sectarian principle of religion,
yet it may be worth observing, that the genealogy of Christ is traced
to Adam. Why then not trace the rights of man to the creation of man? I
will answer the question. Because there have been upstart governments,
thrusting themselves between, and presumptuously working to un-make man.

If any generation of men ever possessed the right of dictating the
mode by which the world should be governed for ever, it was the
first generation that existed; and if that generation did it not, no
succeeding generation can show any authority for doing it, nor can set
any up. The illuminating and divine principle of the equal rights of man
(for it has its origin from the Maker of man) relates, not only to the
living individuals, but to generations of men succeeding each other.
Every generation is equal in rights to generations which preceded it,
by the same rule that every individual is born equal in rights with his
contemporary.

Every history of the creation, and every traditionary account, whether
from the lettered or unlettered world, however they may vary in their
opinion or belief of certain particulars, all agree in establishing one
point, the unity of man; by which I mean that men are all of one degree,
and consequently that all men are born equal, and with equal natural
right, in the same manner as if posterity had been continued by creation
instead of generation, the latter being the only mode by which the
former is carried forward; and consequently every child born into the
world must be considered as deriving its existence from God. The world
is as new to him as it was to the first man that existed, and his
natural right in it is of the same kind.

The Mosaic account of the creation, whether taken as divine authority or
merely historical, is full to this point, the unity or equality of man.
The expression admits of no controversy. "And God said, Let us make man
in our own image. In the image of God created he him; male and female
created he them." The distinction of sexes is pointed out, but no other
distinction is even implied. If this be not divine authority, it is at
least historical authority, and shows that the equality of man, so far
from being a modern doctrine, is the oldest upon record.

It is also to be observed that all the religions known in the world are
founded, so far as they relate to man, on the unity of man, as being all
of one degree. Whether in heaven or in hell, or in whatever state man
may be supposed to exist hereafter, the good and the bad are the only
distinctions. Nay, even the laws of governments are obliged to slide
into this principle, by making degrees to consist in crimes and not in
persons.

It is one of the greatest of all truths, and of the highest advantage to
cultivate. By considering man in this light, and by instructing him to
consider himself in this light, it places him in a close connection with
all his duties, whether to his Creator or to the creation, of which he
is a part; and it is only when he forgets his origin, or, to use a more
fashionable phrase, his birth and family, that he becomes dissolute. It
is not among the least of the evils of the present existing governments
in all parts of Europe that man, considered as man, is thrown back to a
vast distance from his Maker, and the artificial chasm filled up with a
succession of barriers, or sort of turnpike gates, through which he has
to pass. I will quote Mr. Burke's catalogue of barriers that he has
set up between man and his Maker. Putting himself in the character of a
herald, he says: "We fear God--we look with awe to kings--with affection
to Parliaments with duty to magistrates--with reverence to priests,
and with respect to nobility." Mr. Burke has forgotten to put in
"'chivalry." He has also forgotten to put in Peter.

The duty of man is not a wilderness of turnpike gates, through which he
is to pass by tickets from one to the other. It is plain and simple, and
consists but of two points. His duty to God, which every man must feel;
and with respect to his neighbor, to do as he would be done by. If those
to whom power is delegated do well, they will be respected: if not,
they will be despised; and with regard to those to whom no power is
delegated, but who assume it, the rational world can know nothing of
them.

Hitherto we have spoken only (and that but in part) of the natural
rights of man. We have now to consider the civil rights of man, and
to show how the one originates from the other. Man did not enter into
society to become worse than he was before, nor to have fewer rights
than he had before, but to have those rights better secured. His natural
rights are the foundation of all his civil rights. But in order to
pursue this distinction with more precision, it will be necessary to
mark the different qualities of natural and civil rights.

A few words will explain this. Natural rights are those which appertain
to man in right of his existence. Of this kind are all the intellectual
rights, or rights of the mind, and also all those rights of acting as an
individual for his own comfort and happiness, which are not injurious to
the natural rights of others. Civil rights are those which appertain to
man in right of his being a member of society. Every civil right has for
its foundation some natural right pre-existing in the individual, but
to the enjoyment of which his individual power is not, in all cases,
sufficiently competent. Of this kind are all those which relate to
security and protection.

From this short review it will be easy to distinguish between that class
of natural rights which man retains after entering into society and
those which he throws into the common stock as a member of society.

The natural rights which he retains are all those in which the Power to
execute is as perfect in the individual as the right itself. Among
this class, as is before mentioned, are all the intellectual rights, or
rights of the mind; consequently religion is one of those rights. The
natural rights which are not retained, are all those in which, though
the right is perfect in the individual, the power to execute them is
defective. They answer not his purpose. A man, by natural right, has a
right to judge in his own cause; and so far as the right of the mind is
concerned, he never surrenders it. But what availeth it him to judge,
if he has not power to redress? He therefore deposits this right in the
common stock of society, and takes the ann of society, of which he is
a part, in preference and in addition to his own. Society grants him
nothing. Every man is a proprietor in society, and draws on the capital
as a matter of right.

From these premisses two or three certain conclusions will follow:

First, That every civil right grows out of a natural right; or, in other
words, is a natural right exchanged.

Secondly, That civil power properly considered as such is made up of
the aggregate of that class of the natural rights of man, which becomes
defective in the individual in point of power, and answers not his
purpose, but when collected to a focus becomes competent to the Purpose
of every one.

Thirdly, That the power produced from the aggregate of natural rights,
imperfect in power in the individual, cannot be applied to invade the
natural rights which are retained in the individual, and in which the
power to execute is as perfect as the right itself.

We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a
member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of
the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil
rights.



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